Archive for April, 2012

In Sickness and in Health?

April 25, 2012

Her: “I’m sick, you want to come over?”

Me: “Um, no thank you…”

This conversation occurred between me and my first girlfriend and left me utterly confused.  Just 18 years old the time, I had only my upbringing as a source of social etiquette and the lesson regarding sickness was ‘stay home so you don’t get other people sick’.  So why would a woman who ostensibly cares about me invite me to her germ farm?

Clearly I was bit naive at the time and have since learned the value of a significant other’s care when under the weather. Nonetheless, I still find the rules confusing…

When Jen called from her apartment in a raspy voice I knew my role as boyfriend. I grabbed some DVD’s and hit the supermarket to stock her with the works– soups, crackers, juices, medicine. I arrived at her pad like a Santa Claus for sick people. After heating up some chicken noodle and keeping her company I decided to get going.

“You’re leaving me?” she protested.

“Um, not for good but…” I stammered.

“I’m sick.” she said, like it was fault.

Are you kidding? She wants me to spend the night? Instinctively, I tried to make it about her, “Sweetie, you’ll rest better with the bed to yourself…”

My strategy totally backfired as she shot down my theory and left me with no backup.

“I’ll rest better with you here.”

It didn’t make any sense– we only slept over one or two nights a week as it was, why do it when it won’t even be fun? What followed was a sloppily crafted argument of how it’s best for everyone if I left. By the end she was mad and actually wanted me to leave, not how I planned it.

The same issue grew more complicated when I moved in with Claudia. She’d spent the night sniffling and coughing and, with no apartment of my own, I decided I’d at least sleep better (and avoid getting sick) on the couch. I also knew this would likely not be well received so decided to get the ball rolling.

“So… I’ll sleep on the couch tonight so you can have the bed to yourself.” I said with zero conviction.

Darn, I made the same mistake as with Jen– trying to make it about her.

“No.”

What is with these women? I don’t like sharing the bed when I’m healthy so I really don’t want to be bothered when I’m sick.  Alas, they seem to have a ‘we’re in this together’ approach– a theory solidified by Dara when the tables were turned this past New Year’s Eve.

Totally down for the count with a vicious flu, I informed her I unfortunately had to cancel our plans.

“I’ll just come hang out with you then.” she countered.

It was incredibly sweet but I encouraged her to go out and do something fun with her friends.  After all, who wants to stay in with a sick person on New Year’s?  She did.

“If you’re saying you don’t want me that’s fine but otherwise I’d rather spend it with you.”

I was hardly good company but secretly loved the idea of her coming over.

“I’d love to see you.” I stated with some conviction.

“Then you will.”

It was one of the best New Year’s of my life.  We watched TV coverage from around the globe and ate plain toast.  And, while I felt terrible, for a while even forgot I was sick.  At midnight, she insisted on kissing me and shortly thereafter we fell asleep in each other’s arms.  In my bed.  And guess what, she didn’t get sick.

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Dressing Up Your Man

April 18, 2012

There comes a point in every relationship– or at least in mine– when the woman will attempt to improve her man’s appearance.  Sometimes it’s subtle (“Do you like this jacket?”) and other times more overt (“I hate that shirt.”).

In fairness, there usually is room for improvement– guys generally don’t concern themselves with presentation to the extent that women do so some intervention is often warranted… and even secretly welcome.

My first such makeover occurred so smoothly I didn’t even know it happened.

“I got you a present!”  Wendy announced, bounding through the door adorned in shopping bags.  It wasn’t my birthday, or any occasion for that matter, she just “saw something I thought you’d look good in.”

The gift was a baby blue sweater and I didn’t like it.  Aside from the color, guys don’t really like sweaters– they’re itchy and make us unnecessarily warm.  When I see a man wearing a sweater I assume he’s in a relationship (sometimes I even chuckle to myself as I think of them as little nets the woman caught him in.  I have a strange imagination.).

Having been raised well, however, I smiled graciously, “That’s so thoughtful!”

“Try it on.” Wendy fired back.

Ugh, here we go. I forced it on and will never forget what happened next– her face lit up and her eyes beamed.

“Look at your shoulders!” she purred.  “Yup, the blue brings out your eyes.” she continued, as though this had been previously discussed.

She stroked my back and arms, eying me like a dessert.

“You look so handsome…”

Within a few moments the sweater, along with all our other clothes, were on the floor.

For the next five years, I purchased only blue clothing.  I wore the color like it gave me superpowers and, while the women I passed on the street managed to stay dressed, I definitely got more looks than my t-shirt ‘n cargo shorts ensemble ever did.  It was my first experience being dressed by a woman and the upside was clear.

My next intervention, unfortunately, was not as gentle. Brooke and I were only dating a few weeks when, walking through the mall, she just snapped, “You need pants.”  She said it like it had been weighing on her for weeks and she finally couldn’t contain it any more.

Confused, I half-jokingly replied, “I have pants.”

Her faced narrowed, “You need new pants.”

In a flash, our shopping trip went from searching for Spring skirts to me with a pile of pants.  I didn’t care for her approach nor anything she picked– trendy jeans, too tight khakis (do I really look like a “slim fit” guy?).  None of her choices felt like me and soon started to remind me of the last guy she dated (I never met him, just saw pictures).  I had already suspected she still held a torch for him… was she now trying to get me to dress like him?  Eventually I agreed to purchase a few things just so we could leave.  Secretly, I planned to return them the next day, which I did, and turned Brooke in shortly thereafter.

My best makeover, however, occurred purely by accident. Claudia wanted to go to a nearby French restaurant that just opened– not normally my scene but I obliged.  I dressed nicely– button down shirt, pressed slacks and those uncomfortable square shoes women like us in– but upon arriving learned I hadn’t done enough.

“In order to dine here we require that gentleman wear a blazer.” the matre de informed me.  Since I didn’t really want to be there in the first place, this only further annoyed me.  On the other hand the news was welcome– now we can leave.

I turned to my girlfriend apologetically, “Sorry, guess we’ll have to…”

“However” the matre de interrupted, “we can provide a blazer for you.”

And he retrieved a blue blazer from the closet.

Huh?  What kind of policy is that?  ‘We require you to have a blazer unless you don’t in which case we’ll give you one?’  So much for cache.

Begrudgingly, I slung the loaner on and became further annoyed– it was pretty snug.  The shoulders were tight and I couldn’t cross my arms.  What’s this, a medium? Why wouldn’t they just have a large or XL blazer so its one size fits all?  And besides, isn’t it usually the big guy who bogies the dress code?

I didn’t care to sit through a meal jammed into this thing and turned to Claudia to complain but her face changed everything– it was the same look Wendy had given me years earlier.

Wow. You look really good in blazers.” she purred.

I decided I could tough it out.  We sat for an overpriced meal, a bit more attitude from the staff and went straight home for dessert.

An Exercise in Love

April 11, 2012

When I workout I generally don’t want any witnesses.  My routine bears little resemblance to those sweat-dripping, Nike ads, it’s more the path of least resistance coupled with an internal monologue reminding me rest is as important to health as exertion.  At the gym, you’ll most likely find me laying on the mats watching cable TV under the guise of stretching.  Yes, I realize I’m only cheating myself.  And I can live with that.

As such, I’m always conflicted when a significant other suggests we exercise together.  To me, it’s like asking someone to do errands with you– I don’t even want to do them, why would I invite you to be miserable too?  Alas, the women I’ve dated tend to find a level of joy in their exercise regimens and apparently feel sharing the experience with their beau will only enhance that.

My initial experience with this phenomenon occurred with Dara, one of the first women I dated after moving to New York.

“Do you want to go for a run?” were the shrill words she uttered, just weeks into our courtship.  I did not want to run but did want to impress her so agreed.

When we met in Central Park, I instantly knew I was in trouble.  Her running outfit appeared nicer than my nice clothes and she was touching her toes without bending her knees.  I can’t touch my knees without bending my knees and was dressed like I was going to paint a room.

Immediately, I felt inferior.  While I never saw the point in wearing good clothes just to sweat, I wished I had.  What else did I even own?  My next nicest outfit was a polo shirt and khakis and that hardly seemed like running attire.

“Should we run for time or distance?” she asked, further unnerving me.

Apparently “to not pass out” wasn’t a choice.

We agreed to run the inner loop “to start” (her words, not mine) and took off.

Despite my concerns, the run started better than expected.  Her pace wasn’t torturous and my pain minimal– the only indicator of our differing conditions being she talked the whole time while I gave one word answers or just grunted in agreement.  But otherwise I felt good.  That is, until she announced “I’m warmed up.  Wanna start?”

What happened next was a blur.  She took off like a gazelle and I resorted to a dead sprint just trying to keep up.  As she clipped along with a relaxed stride– still chatting away– I must have looked like monsters were chasing me.  I’d stopped responding altogether as oxygen was scarce.

Slowly, my body started to revolt.  My left heel began aching followed by a sharp pain in my right knee.  Both calves were burning and my shoulders went numb.  I felt like a space shuttle reentering the atmosphere– shingles flying everywhere, the whole thing overheating.

Then a blessing occurred– my shoelace came undone.  Thank goodness, a temporary break to this insanity.  I called time out and collapsed to the ground, planning to take as long as needed, or longer, to tie it while gathering my thoughts.  And that’s when blessing #2 occurred– I gave my right shoelace a good, tight yank and “pop!” it snapped in half.  Oh no! (Oh yes!)  The remaining lace proved too short to properly tie a sneaker and trying to run that way would certainly risk injury.  Dara agreed and began brainstorming the closest running store where we could get new laces.

“No!” I countered, still battling for air.  Being in the middle of Central Park, I explained, it’ll be 45 minutes before this gets fixed.  “You’re all warmed up, finish the run… I’ll hang back and do some ab work.”  The last part was a ridiculous add on, particularly with my chest still heaving.

She found my unselfishness “incredibly sweet” and gave me a big kiss before darting off.  And I spotted a street vendor and rewarded myself sweetness with a giant pretzel and Coke.

Over the course of our 10 month relationship, I managed to avoid another running session using various excuses from “I worked out this morning” to “I’m still working… but lets meet for drink after?”.  Looking back, I wish I’d wanted to run with Dara.  It seemed important to her and sharing that would have been nice.  While our relationship just sort of fizzled out perhaps this served as a small  indicator of our compatibility?  Either way, I hope someone is running with her now and I hope he can keep up.  Or at least has old laces.

Hey, Jealousy

April 3, 2012

When I was 17, my girlfriend brought me to get my wisdom teeth pulled so she could drive me home after the anesthesia.  When we arrived at the doctor’s office, a rather attractive female receptionist greeted me with a big smile and handed me paperwork to fill out. I wrote my name, checked “single” under marital status, and that’s when the trouble began.

“You’re not single.”, my girlfriend protested.

“Well I’m not married or divorced.” I replied, referencing the only other options.

“You have a girlfriend,” she said, “and I don’t want the Hoochie Mama nurse thinking you’re single while you’re all drugged up in the back.”

It was a ridiculous statement, yet I couldn’t tell if she was kidding.  Instinctively, I tried to lighten the mood.

“You want me to draw another box that says ‘in a relationship’ and check it?” I joked.

“Yes.” she said, without a smile.

I didn’t draw that box but I also didn’t so much as glance at the receptionist again for the rest of the visit.  It was my first taste of relationship jealousy.

While jealousy rears its ugly mug in all parts of life, perhaps nothing drives us more insane than jealousy with a significant other.  Who was on the phone? Why were you late?  Where did you get that sweater?  Feeling jealous— while sometimes warranted and others irrational– is a constant.  So it’s in how we choose to handle it that we can make a difference.  Here is what I’ve learned…

Jealousy is not always unattractive… 

Sometimes jealousy gets a bad rap (probably something to do with that whole looking weak and surrendering control thing) but it  can be flattering, says my buddy Brian. “My girlfriend and I were watching my friend’s band at a bar and, when I went off to grab us more drinks, another woman started chatting me up.  Before I knew it, my girlfriend had subtly sauntered over to keep an eye on me. I liked it– I kinda felt wanted.”

Of course, acting too jealous is almost always a turn off, which is what happened to Jeff , the stud goalie on my Zogsports soccer team. “I was watching a college football game in which one of the teams happened to be my ex-girlfriend’s alma mater and she concluded that I secretly missed my ex and wanted to get back together with her.  I concluded that we were through.”

In fact, an informal sampling of my guy friends agree that whenever they’ve dated women who are overly jealous,  they wind up being less open with her because they never know how she’s going to react to things.  So, ironically, in an effort to know everything about him they learn nothing.

Jealousy can up your game.

My buddy, Rob, is an avid reader while his girlfriend is more of a TV type.  At a dinner party, Rob struck up a conversation with a woman who shared the same passion and his girlfriend started to get insecure.  The next day she resolved to start reading more and now she participates in those same conversations.  And, while she admittedly started reading to compete with the woman, she discovered she actually likes it.

You may be onto something.

My friend’s then-girlfriend flipped out in a restaurant when he spent too much time assessing the waitress’ butt.  She got furious and started chewing him out right in front of everyone.  Embarrassing as it was, he concedes she was right in retrospect. “Our relationship was fading.  We’d been fighting a lot and my eye was definitely starting to wander. In fact, three weeks later we broke up.”

While flogging her honey in public probably felt good, not reacting right away is sometimes the better approach.  A “friend of a friend”, Brooke, was devastated when her two year relationship ended. Even worse, she suspected there was someone else in his picture. That’s when she realized that she knew his email password.  She logged into his account and a trail of emails confirmed her suspicion.  In fact, turns out he was seeing her while they were still a couple.  Brooke followed their correspondence daily, growing more enraged with each exchange.  She resisted the urge, however, to interfere with the exchange.  Instead, she made note of their plans to meet at a restaurant that weekend, put together a beautiful care package of all the letters and gifts he had given her and had them delivered to their table. Within a day, his password had changed.  And Brooke felt a whole lot better.

It goes both ways…

When I was starting to lose my mojo for my last girlfriend, she sensed it.  Nothing was wrong, it was just after a year and a half of dating I was getting a little less romantic, a little less cuddly, a little less like I was when we met.  Then one day, she called me up to thank me for the flowers, only I hadn’t sent any.

“Oh”, she said with embarrassment when I admitted this, “I guess… never mind then.”

For weeks I was in a fury: Who sent these flowers? Who was trying to move in on her?  Along with my jealousy came a change in behavior— I was suddenly attentive, doting… I was the best boyfriend I’d ever been.  It wasn’t until several months later that I learned from her roommate that there were never any flowers.  Well played.